By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) - Around 250 protesters set up camp outside St Paul's Cathedral in the heart of London on Sunday, promising to occupy the site indefinitely to show their anger at bankers and politicians over the global economic crisis.
The group, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, began their protest to decry corporate greed and economic inequality on Saturday when several thousand gathered to try to take over the area in front of the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
After being thwarted by lines of police, the group moved to the cathedral, located next to the privately-owned square housing the LSE, where they erected about 70 tents and camped out overnight.
Some said they would stay there as long as possible.
"People are saying enough is enough, we want a real democracy, not one that is based on the interests of big business and the banking system," said protester Jane McIntyre.
The London protest was one of a series of similar actions that took place across the globe on Saturday, with the largest in Rome where militant demonstrators clashed with riot police.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said he had some sympathy with people who were unhappy at the global economic problems.
"It is true that a lot of things have to be faced up to in the Western world and there have been too many debts built up by states and clearly in the banking system a lot has gone wrong," he told BBC TV.
"However, protest won't be the answer to that. The answer is governments to control their debts and deficits. I'm afraid protesting the streets is not going to solve the problem."
Police in London, who protesters accused of heavy-handed behavior on Saturday, reduced their presence at the site on Sunday at the request of a member of the cathedral's clergy, a spokeswoman for the demonstrators said.
Police said they would see how the protest developed and declined to comment on whether any action would be taken to remove the camp.
While attracting much media attention, the "Occupy London" protest is much smaller than other recent demonstrations in the British capital.
Several hundred thousand people attended a rally organized by trade unions against the coalition government's austerity measures in March, while thousands of students joined protests against plans to raise university tuition fees last year. Those demonstrations ended in disorder and violence.
"We support the right to peaceful protest, it's very important those protests are kept peaceful," Hague added.
Britain's economy has stalled in the last year, with economists predicting feeble growth in the next year while unemployment has risen to 2.57 million, its highest level since 1994.
Many ordinary Britons believe executives working for banks which caused the economic crisis are still enjoying high salaries and bonuses while they suffer a diet of pay freezes and benefits cuts, combined with rising inflation and taxes.